BComm students to present downsizing research at national conference

Posted on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

(l-r) Professor Nita Chhinzer with students Rachelle Phillips, Michelle Douglas and Erica Wortley.

Decision-making practices surrounding downsizing need careful planning and consideration for those losing their jobs as well as survivors - those remaining in the affected organization. Later this month, three Bachelor of Commerce students – Michelle Douglas, Erica Wortley and Rachelle Phillips – will present research on this issue at the Canadian Industrial Relations Association (CIRA) Conference in Toronto in front of fellow researchers and industry professionals from across Canada.

The students’ research, developed as part of third and fourth-year courses taught by professor Nita Chhinzer, covers two different topics related to downsizing. Wortley and Phillips’ paper explores the effects of downsizing on an organization’s capacity to manage talent, primarily concentrated on three challenges experienced by downsizing survivors: erosion of intellectual capital, increased voluntary turnover and redistribution of workload or responsibilities.

“Organizations have become addicted to downsizing even with substantial evidence that it is detrimental to them,” said Wortley. “We hope our presentation leads to an open discussion on the implications of downsizing and advances the conversation further to understand the motivations behind it.”

Phillips added, “We feel that strategies can be developed to effectively manage downsizing survivors so they can capitalize on change in a post-layoff environment. To achieve this, we need to properly address the needs of those individuals.”

Douglas’ research focuses on the negative effects of downsizing in single-industry rural areas, using the example of the former mining town of Pine Point in the Northwest Territories. In her paper, she explores the different options companies can take to minimize the negative effects of downsizing, both for residents of these rural areas, as well as the government and organizations that invest in them.

“I conducted my research in this area because I saw a gap in the study of downsizing,” she said. “The effects of downsizing in single-industry rural areas are more dramatic and intense than in cities.  Organizations need to address downsizing in these areas with extreme sensitivity and prior planning.”

While at the conference, Douglas, Wortley and Phillips will receive feedback from experts as well as network with fellow conference attendees. It’s an opportunity Chhinzer says is a valuable learning experience for budding researchers as well as industry experts.

“As companies continue to use downsizing as a workforce adjustment tool, we must advance research to inform management about the causes, practice and outcomes of downsizing,” said Chhinzer. “These students clearly demonstrate an understanding of the importance of developing and sharing management expertise with multiple audiences and for multiple purposes. I am very proud of them!”

The 2017 CIRA Conference will be held May 30 to June 1 in Toronto. For more information on CIRA, visit their website.

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